Another Jewish holiday happened about two months ago (Yes; another holiday. We have many them!). This holiday is called Shavuot. The word Shavuot actually means “weeks.” The holiday commemorates the date that G-d gave the Torah (Old Testament to those of you who don’t know the Hebrew term) to the Jewish people at Mt. Sinai over 3,300 years ago. From the beginning of Passover to Shavuot, we count 49 days, the amount of time it took Moses and the Jews to reach Mt. Sinai to receive the Torah. We celebrate this holiday by lighting candles, staying up all night to learn Torah, hear the reading of the Ten Commandments, and many have the tradition of eating dairy foods. Why am I telling you about this holiday? Because I feel like, with all the other Jewish holidays, there are applicable lessons we can learn with regard to how we manage our Fibromyalgia.
What could be learned from getting the Ten Commandments? Well first of all, we can apply some of the commandments to how we live our life with Fibromyalgia. I read an article by Chana Weisberg entitled "10 Bite Sized Life Lessons to Be Learned from the 10 Commandments." While not all the lessons listed apply to us Fibromites, I thought I could take a few of her lessons and guide you towards a more meaningful life while living with a chronic pain disorder.
1. “G-d chose to give the Torah on an elevated mountain. You can elevate your life.”
As we know, a diagnosis and life lived with Fibromyalgia can be upsetting, depressing, frustrating, and the like. However, it doesn’t have to be. I can’t speak for everyone else but I believe I was chosen by G-d to have this disorder (as annoying and frustrating it is sometimes) to get me to follow my life’s path. I believe that becoming a Certfied Fibromyalgia Advisor was what I was meant to be and all my previous jobs were steps toward this ultimate goal. How does this apply to you? Well, no one wants to think G-d gave them something that could be potentially awful and life altering, but I have found with my clients, together we can find something positive about having this disorder. One thing that I can think of that everyone can do to elevate your life with Fibromyalgia is to EDUCATE. Fibromyalgia is still often thought of as a “wastebasket disorder/diagnosis” by many in the medical field, and therefore anyone else who does not live with this disorder. We can take it upon ourselves to help others, INCLUDING medical professionals, so that we can be taken seriously. Having done this myself, I don’t feel like I struggle with the disorder as much as I did before - when everyone thought my diagnosis was all in my head!
2. “A mountain is the same dirt as a plain, but has been raised. No matter how dirty your life appears, raise it and make of it a mountain.”
People are going to judge you. You might even judge yourself, but, as with the lesson above, you have the option to change how people view and think about you, and how you think about yourself. You may feel with this diagnosis that you’ll never do anything again; however, YOU CAN and by doing so, you can show others that while your life has changed, you won’t let Fibromyalgia stop you.
So, not only do you need to protect yourself from others, you also need to protect yourself from your own thoughts and feelings about how this disorder is affecting you. Being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia or living with it for many years can make you feel more like a “dirty plain.” But, if you treat yourself they way you deserve or realize you can live a full life with fibro, life goes on and you've turned your “dirt” into a mountain and have most likely elevated the way you feel about yourself, therefore not allowing your diagnosis to take over your life.
3. “The 10 Commandments were addressed in the singular form to the whole of the Jewish people; if even one Jew was missing, the Torah could not have been given. You are essential.
Hmmm... How can Kate apply this to living with Fibromyalgia? Challenge accepted!
I’m taking one small segment from this lesson to show you how the whole piece applies. You are essential. This is a struggle many people with fibromyalgia to deal with as they try to figure out how they can contribute to the community, their family, and themselves. Fibromyalgia certainly changes one’s life, however, you can still live a happy and full life. It just may not be the one you were expecting/planning. As they say, “Man plans; G-d laughs.” I’m sure a good deal of might take offense to this statement ( I do too, sometimes.), but, I truly believe G-d has a plan for you, and while it may not be what you planned or expected, G-d still believes you are essential to this world. This is where we can connect the “singular form” to the whole. You are one single person. How much can you do? So much! We often feel we lose value because our pain and fatigue doesn't allow us to participate in as many things that used to be so simple like daily chores, or cooking dinner; but, it's important for you to know that you are valuable just because you are you. It's also important to note that just because you have Fibromyalgia, having the disorder doesn't make you any less valuable!
In my case, I went from being an educator, to feeling like life had nothing left to give me (after the Fibromyalgia diagnosis), to coaching others with Fibromyalgia, other chronic pain disorders and their co-morbid diagnoses. Coaching has given me life and purpose in a way that I didn’t think anything could aside from working in the field of education. Coaching is obviously not for everyone; however, even with your diagnosis, there is still so much that you can offer to this world. Need some help with that? That’s where a coach can come in. ;-)
4. “The Ten Commandments were said to individuals, tailored to each person’s spirituality and psychological makeup. You have a unique role and mission.”
This piggy-backs on the previous one. Again, it’s important to realize you haven’t lost yourself nor your identity due to the Fibromyalgia diagnosis. Things DEFINITELY change, often times your whole life is flipped upside down, but it’s your decision and your mission to figure out how to live life with this new “makeup.” Fibromyalgia is a hard diagnosis to swallow. Allow yourself to mourn, be sad, and be upset. But, don’t allow yourself to decide that life is over due to the diagnosis, because it’s not. You still have much to offer and sometimes it takes some time to figure out what that is. Only you know your abilities and limitations, so only you can make the decision about your next step in life.
5. “The Jewish people were ‘facing the mountain’ ready to receive G-d’s word. If you focus on something higher, petty differences disintegrate.”
I’ll admit it, Fibromyalgia is a challenge. And, I’ll admit many of us try to focus on achieving the larger goal. I have learned, sometimes painfully, that to “survive” with Fibromyalgia, you need to cut these larger goals into tiny baby steps because if you try to do the whole goal all at once, it may never be attainable. Petty differences can get in the way of your goal(s). (Unfortunately) Life changes happen when you are diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. I discussed this above. You make the decision as to whether this will affect you negatively or positively (hopefully the latter). If you continue in your path of how horrible this diagnosis is and that you’ll never lead a “normal” life again, “petty differences” certainly get in the way as you are focusing on barriers that can never be attained as opposed to obstacles that can be overcome. As hard as it is, let go of these “petty differences” so that you can climb those mountains, jump over those hurdles, and live a happy and full life while living with a chronic pain disorder.
Sometimes being able to switch your thinking from barriers to obstacles can be difficult, especially early on in your diagnosis. However, having someone to help you through these hurdles will make the transition much easier. A Fibromyalgia coach/advisor, who may have dealt with the same hurdles you have, can help. We can share with you what might have worked for us and/or things that have worked for friends or fellow coaches.
For those of you that believe in G-d, or feel connected to a higher power through spirituality, you may believe, alongside myself and my fellow coaches and advisors, that having a coach is beneficial, and (I can only speak for myself here) crucial for my ability to function while living with chronic illness. Many of the “larger” religions believe in Ten Commandments and are required to live by them. And, as I discussed above, you can apply the lessons you learned from them to your daily live of living with a chronic illness like Fibromyalgia. Are there any lessons you have applied to the way you have chosen to live your life that can be gleaned from the Ten Commandments? If so, I’d love to hear what you’ve learned.
I want to express that I have my own coach and working with her has been life changing. She has helped me view life through the eyes of a Fibro Warrior in a different, more positive way. I have learned that challenges can be positive and can support our struggles in a big way. I don’t think I would feel as well (physically or emotionally) without having a coach (and friends that are coaches) to help me through the transition of living with a chronic illness.
Need some help with re-connecting to your faith that you might have lost after your diagnosis, or just help with “surviving life” with Fibromyalgia? Reach out to me or another coach to get some support. I offer a complimentary consultation with no commitment to continue to help you decide if coaching is for you. We can often schedule something within a week’s time. (If you click on the word schedule, it will take you directly to my scheduling page.) In the meantime, I hope something in this blog post resonated with you. There will be more to come. My goal is to help as many people living with a Fibromyalgia diagnosis, their co-morbid diagnoses, or any other chronic pain sufferers as I can. I look forward to hearing from you soon! =)
I’m Kate Straus and I’m a Certified Fibromyalgia Advisor. I help Jewish women feel confident in their ability to practice their faith while navigating the ups and downs of fibromyalgia. I’m using the disease that at one time knocked me down, to help support others live life to their fullest.